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The Biggest Hopes for the Restaurant Industry in 2021

Hoping for a bailout and more

Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas.

In keeping with Eater tradition, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. To kick it off in the Carolinas, Eater asked the group eight questions, ranging from the restaurants they frequented for takeout to the saddest surprises of the year. Responses are in no particular order, and readers are encouraged to leave answers in the comments.

Q. What is your biggest hope for the restaurant industry in 2021?

Wyatt Dickson, pitmaster/owner of Picnic and Wyatt’s Whole Hog Barbecue
That we bounce back leaner and meaner than ever before.

Stephanie Burt, writer and host of The Southern Fork
That the real estate market stabilizes so Charleston’s culinary scene isn’t hollowed out in the middle except for some classic quality spots such as FIG and The Grocery. The square foot prices are such downtown that it is pushing most new, small chef-owned spots off the peninsula further afield. It’s not sexy to talk about, but real estate prices are one of the major factors in a vibrant restaurant community.

KJ Kearney, Founder of Black Food Fridays
I hope that the diversity that everyone was championing in June 2020 continues into the new year. I want to see more Pink Bellies and Xio Bao Biscuits and Le Creme’s and Nana’s. I want to see minority investment from the people who have the resources. I want to see the Charleston Visitors Bureau showcase all of Charleston’s culinary wonders and for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival to continue diversifying their event offerings and freelance contracts. In short, my biggest hope is that we DON’T RETURN TO NORMAL. Shake that shit up, homie. If that happens, the scene is going to take off something serious!

Hanna Raskin, Food writer and critic for the Post & Courier
The last hope for the industry is the Restaurants Act. We’ll see what the next administration does with it.

Kenneth Andrews, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering SC
The easy answer: I just HOPE for it.

Erin Perkins, editor Eater Carolinas
Though store and restaurant closures in 2020 have been terrible, I’m hoping this pushes landlords to lower rent prices and makes way for smaller, more innovative groups to offer a more diverse array of restaurant cuisines in Charleston.

Jenn Rice, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering NC
To come out on the other side of this pandemic alive — with much needed (and deserved) respect. And way more support and funding from the government.

Mike Ledford, Eater Carolinas photographerI hope property owners set lower/more realistic lease prices to attract budding restaurant owners/chefs to bring more options to the city at all price ranges. I’d like to see the city of Charleston set a higher minimum wage to attract/retain more F&B workers and to allow for those workers to live closer to where they work, cutting down on traffic and housing concerns at the same time.

Ricky Moore, owner/chef of Saltbox Seafood Joints
As it pertains to our industry, my hope is that we as senior industry leaders take immediate responsibility to ensure a safe, healthy, respectfully, diverse and transparent work place where everyone feels comfortable expressing who they are, are allowed to be meaningful contributors, and are celebrated for what each of us can bring to table.

My hope is that we stay diligent about what we’re doing, and don’t give up. My hope is that we rebound from tough decisions. We need to embrace the idea that something even more challenging may still happen. We’re built for this, for adapting and surviving!

Matthew Lardie, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering NC
That it doesn’t become a sea of chain restaurants.

Eric Ginsburg, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering NC
That the federal government bails it out.

Scott Crawford, chef/owner of Crawford and Son
My hope is that we’re appreciated! I hope that we’re appreciated by our own government as the largest employer of people without a college degree. How can you not respect that? Appreciation means understanding how hard this industry is – even before COVID, and supporting us to become a healthy industry again. I hope we become recognized for what we are — as the industry that accepts everyone and employees 14 million people who did not have the benefit of higher education, but who can work their way up into a successful career. I want the industry to receive the aid and respect it deserves for what we do for the American people, for the employment and opportunity we offer, to pursue the American dream.

Sunny Gerhart, chef/owner of St. Roch Fine Oysters & Bar
I think 2021 is going to be a great year. I believe that those folks that are able to make it into 2021 will have a good year once things are able to get back to a bit of normalcy. My biggest hope for 2021 is for warm, beautiful weather and a bunch of folks able to be safely vaccinated.

Barbara Skidmore, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering SC and Savannah
More 2019 less 2020

Brooks Reitz, Restaurateur (Melfi’s, Little Jack’s Tavern, Leon’s Oyster Shop)
Hope springs eternal — I’d love to see restaurants command the prices that it takes to make money in this business, and for customers to happily pay them!

Dave Schuttenberg, owner/chef at Kwei Fei and Micho
Small and scrappy has had its benefits this year. Having opened Kwei Fei on a limited budget forced us into business decisions when we opened that proved uniquely beneficial when we had to pivot on the outset of the pandemic. We were able to move very quickly into a different model, and not lose much time in doing so. Watching other restaurants hone in on their strengths and really develop alternate revenue streams to help them survive has been amazing. Diversification will be crucial moving forward.